When I applied for an internship at Cheetah Conservation Fund, I was already imagining myself treating the resident orphaned cheetahs all day long. So it was a pretty big surprise when I found myself working most of the days with goats and dogs. I will not lie; it was a bit of a disappointment at first.
Then, after a few weeks I started getting really attached to the goats. I even developed a few favourites. How could your day be bad when you start it with the goats and Vistoria (CCF’s vet tech): Lara’s chewing your shirt, Veneto’s following you around and Lotus’ trying to eat your hair. It seems weird, but those goats made me laugh every day in the Kraal. Besides amusement, the goats present a great training opportunity: I vaccinated at least 50 goats and 30 sheep, dewormed over 100 goats in total, did daily eye treatments on the kids, ran fecal analysis for the herd, cleaned abscesses and drew blood on Tulip a couple of times. I never treated a goat before coming to CCF, and I feel like now I have the experience to be confident enough to perform a lot of basic vet work on them.
The Livestock Guarding Dogs that work at CCF are real sweethearts. Once they got to know me, they welcomed me with a happily wagging tail every single time I entered their pens. I was lucky to be able to perform blood drawings on six of them for a big general health check. It was very good practice. I was also able to do sutures on a dog that had a wound, and an artificial insemination on Bella. I also fed them, and took them for walks at the end of each day.
I also did get to work with the cheetahs! Getting to know the resident cheetahs when working with the husbandry team, seeing them in those big enclosures is almost like seeing them in nature. They all have their unique characters and personalities. Some will start purring when they see you at the fence, like Jaya, others will hiss as soon as they see you. But each and every one of them (even the grouchy ones) is beautiful and I loved working with them. I had the privilege to be there for three of Daenerys’ workups. Daenerys broke her leg when she was out in the wild. She was being monitored by a satellite tracking collar and we were able to pick her up when we realized there was a problem. While at CCF she gave birth to a cub that we named Khaleesi.
Khaleesi had to be taken away from Daenerys for safety and health reasons. I would have wished that Khaleesi didn’t need vet attention so much (she has an entropion). She was the cutest and most beautiful patient I treated. Another cheetah I came close to was Hermione, as we did a workup on her before she got moved to a new enclosure. I inspected her teeth as she’s already a pretty old cheetah. I was also able to help vaccinate the cheetahs, I personally injected Darwin, Polly, Kayla and Rohini. I also helped the husbandry team prepare meds and give fluids some of the days.
Overall, my internship experience ended up being a lot different from what I expected. It was a great experience and I was very fortunate to meet really nice interns that helped me a lot to feel more comfortable and at home. The vets were kind and did their best to get us involved whenever it was possible. They were very dedicated to us having an informative and hands-on internship.